Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Interview with Tura Satana, Lori Williams and Haji - The stars of Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!

"Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! Is beyond doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future" Fine praise indeed as Pink Flamingos director John Waters so eloquently put it, there is no other film like Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!. The film has named LA rock groups Faster Pussycat and Tura Satana, the title track has been covered by The Cramps and original poster won't leave you much change from $2000 but why is this initial box office failure cited by many as the ultimate cult film? The women!

Tura Satana, Haji and Lori Williams starred as a trio of go-go dancers, high on life and wild for kicks. These actresses were the living embodiment of breast obsessed Meyer's ultimate women, outrageously proportioned, sexually liberated nymphs who knew what they wanted and always got it! By turning the tables on the usual stereotypes, Meyer’s gang of go-go dancers tore around in fast cars, kidnapped young girls and broke men’s backs. Everything about the film worked: the beat-driven dialogue, the out of place Fifties monster movie soundtrack and the stunning black and white cinematography.

Tura Satana, an astonishing half-Japanese, half-Cheyenne Indian voluptuous karate expert, played the leader of this jive-talking girl gang, Varla. She steals the show and has developed into a cult figure and feminist icon "I think that the film became so popular with the public, because it shows that women can be just as tough, if not tougher than some guys. Women love to see some guys get their butts kicked instead of the women getting knocked around. Russ always says that the film was basically a flop when it was first released, but nothing that is a flop can achieve the status that Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! has achieved over the years." Haji, who played Varla's lover Rosie has different views on the reasons for the films cult status "Well because we all have large breasts! and there are lots of fast cars, female domination, lots of fantasies for men, but without the women being taken advantage of, so it was for women also" Lori Williams agrees “I think one reason is that women didn't "Kick Ass" in film when Faster Pussycat was made in 1965. It seems to have really picked up momentum since Thelma & Louise. I also feel it was shot in a very unique style and the Black and White film makes a strong statement.”

The films opens with our girls hard at work, go-go dancing their audience into a carnal frenzy to the power pop tunes of the Mighty Bossweeds. Racing their Porsche’s for cheap thrills they come across a couple, Tommie and Linda, playboy playmate Susan Bernhard, in the middle of the desert flats racing time trials. The trio challenge them to a race and the resulting skirmish results in a dead boyfriend and a kidnapped waif. Using the girl to infiltrate their way into a local household, the girls come across a wheelchair bound, dirty old man, played with relish by Meyer regular and war buddy Stuart Lancaster, and his sons Kirk and the Vegetable. Legend has it that the old man is sitting on a fortune and the girls decide to use their womanly ways to seduce the cash from out of his hands. The delirious denouement ends in violence and tragedy as the inner turmoil’s and raging passions of the girl gang boil over.

Where would Meyer find women who could play such venomous roles? In his own inimitable style, he found his actresses from all walks of life. “I was dancing at a nightclub and someone sent Russ to see me.” purrs Haji “Russ saw the show and said he was a director with a small part in a film, and would I read for it. I read for the opening of Motor Pyscho and ended up getting the lead. This terrified me. Before I had never even considered acting. I ended up doing four more films for Russ. Also helped him cast films. I also worked behind the scenes as production assistant, hair, make up and wardrobe. It was a great education on how to make movies with a five man crew”

Haji also had a part in getting Satana the role of Varla “I got a call from my agent, and went to the interview. Later I heard my role was gotten because Haji had mentioned my name to Russ. This was never mentioned to me. So, I can’t say for sure, but I do know that I went to the interview in my costume for Irma La Douce wedding scene. It was a little rough being Varla in a skin tight pink dress, with a pink pillbox hat with a tulle flower on it!”

"I met Russ at an Audition” recalls Lori Williams “my agent Paul Kohner sent me on for the movie. They wanted one girl completely the opposite of Haji and Tura. It was a cattle call and I had 2 call backs before I got cast in the part of Billie. No, I wasn't a Go-Go-dancer. I worked in the Beach Party films and a few Elvis movies as a dancer.”

Williams remembers filming with fondness “The atmosphere on the set was very good. We all got along very well Susan Bernard and I kind of stuck together and Haji and Tura were friends from before this film. I think they danced together for a while” Satana, however, did not make friends with everyone on set. “Pussycat was filmed in the Mojave Desert and it was extremely hot there. Everything was a ball on the set. We had fun, but there were times when there was some tension on the set with Susan Bernard's mother. It became necessary for me to make Susan very afraid of me, in order to get the reaction that was required of her.”

Haji agrees ”All the girls were great to work with, but Susan Bernard was young and whiny, and it drove Tura crazy. I used to find it amusing. No complaints about the crew. Russ never put sexual pressure on anyone, no uncomfortable feelings, not even a little” Contrary to Russ’s legendary sexual appetite he was on best behaviour as Williams recounts “Russ ran a very professional set and was more like a father image to me at the time. I really enjoyed working with him! Russ ran the whole show. He would listen but he made all the calls. I didn't want to do some of the lines the way he called for. At the time I thought they were too camp! Well, time has certainly proven me wrong. That is exactly what sells this film.”

Satana also made the most of Meyer’s distinct film making style “Russ was a teacher in any of the films that he has done. When you worked with Russ, you learned to do all kinds of things from being a Grip to being an assistant director. You learned al the different aspects of a production company.” Haji wasn’t quite so forgiving of the hard working director “Russ was tough to work with. There is no other word for it. He yelled, was very demanding, long hours and no one could leave the set, even if your scene was over. Even though we were miles from any towns, he would keep an eye on us, even at night. No one could even go for a drive. We would live and shoot on location, with rattlesnakes, tarantulas and lots of scorpions.”

Where do you go after a film like Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!? Satana appeared in Ted. V. Mikel’s Astro Zombies and The Doll Squad but her appearances dried up “I quit acting and went back to dancing for awhile as a tassel twirling go-go dancer. It was a combination of my strip routine and go-go dancing. I stopped acting because I was not one to go sleeping with any of the casting directors.” Williams also followed with a career in dancing “I went to Las Vegas after FPKK to dance in a show at Caesar's Palace. I then went to Italy to do a few movies so wasn't really around for Russ's movies. He did try and get me for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls , but I was already committed.” Haji was the only member of the gang to continue working with Meyer, she appeared in Good Morning and Goodbye , Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Supervixens as well as working with the likes of sleaze merchant David Friedman in Ilsa, Hareem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks and John Cassavetes in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie “My favourite director was Cassavetes, he was always a gentlemen, he made me very comfortable with improvisation. He was ready to use me again and then he died, that was a very sad day for me”
With talk of the girls getting together for two films, Kill kitty Kat Kill and Vixen Highway we may well see the girls together again but they will always be remembered as the kittens with the sharpest claws in Faster! pussycat Kill Kill!


shane said...

thanks for sharing a helpful resource with us really helpful for everyone

Retro Ladyland said...

I would love to get in touch with Lori williams, I know this was a while ago, but do you have contact details?